Hot Tamales first hit store shelves in 1950 and quickly became a favorite option at movie theaters and small candy shops across the country. The spicy-hot chewy cinnamon candy has a very unique flavor that’s quite different from your average gummy.
The only question is, “Are Hot Tamales vegan?”
Hot Tamales are, unfortunately, NOT vegan. For one, Hot Tamales contain confectioner’s glaze, which is a non-vegan food additive made with shellac (which comes from lac bugs).
Additionally, Hot Tamales are also made with refined white sugar, which many plant-based eaters try to avoid, as it’s filtered through animal bone char.
Below, I’ll give you a full rundown of all of the ingredients in Hot Tamales, so you have a better idea of what to look for the next time you’re searching for some vegan-friendly candy.
Does Hot Tamales Candy Have Gelatin?
Gelatin is one of the most common non-vegan ingredients added to mainstream candy brands. It’s a tasteless powder that’s used to make soft, chewy food and candy, such as Jell-O, marshmallows, gummy bears, and more.
Most non-vegans don’t give a second thought to gelatin, as most don’t even know what it is. Unfortunately, it’s a non-vegan ingredient that’s derived from processed animal bones!
Unlike other chewy, gummy-style candies, Hot Tamales are not made with any gelatin. Instead, the candy’s chewy texture comes from a combination of food starch, MCTs, and pectin.
Is Confectioner’s Glaze Vegan?
Although Hot Tamales don’t contain any pork-derived gelatin, they’re not vegan due to the fact that they contain another animal by-product – confectioner’s glaze.
Confectioner’s glaze is a non-vegan food additive that’s obtained from female lac beetles in Southeast Asia.
As the females eat, they secrete a sticky substance that helps them cling to trees. It’s similar to the goo that slugs produce as they crawl along the ground. This goo is taken, processed, and then turned into shellac.
Shellac, in turn, is used to make confectioner’s glaze (used for candy, donuts, etc.), pharmaceutical glaze (used to coat pills), and shellac coatings for wood and furniture.
While the bugs aren’t necessarily “slaughtered” to produce the resin, the industry itself is still very exploitative. The bugs have no choice in the matter and are used for their shellac, which they secrete specifically to protect their eggs.
At the end of the day, confectioner’s glaze is an animal-derived food, not a plant-based food.
For similar reasons, honey is also considered a non-vegan food.
What Are Hot Tamales Candy Made Of? Ingredients Listed
Are you curious about what Hot Tamales are made of? If so, then you’re in the right place. Below, I’m going to give you a full breakdown of all of the ingredients in Hot Tamales, the “Fierce Cinnamon” candy.
I’ve always been a proponent of learning more about what goes into everyday food products. Many people (vegans and non-vegans included) regularly eat foods without actually knowing what they’re consuming.
With so many hard-to-pronounce, confusing ingredients used in modern processed food, many choose to simply ignore the ingredients list. Instead, I want to break it all down and simplify it for you, so you can tell exactly which foods are vegan and non-vegan in the future!
Here’s the shortlist of the ingredients:
Now, I’ll take a couple of minutes to break everything down into simple, easy-to-understand terms.
Sugar is the main ingredient in Hot Tamales and many other candies. While many tend to think of sugar as a plant-based, vegan product, it’s not quite as vegan-friendly as many assume.
Although all sugar comes from the sugarcane plant, not all sugar is equal.
Unrefined, natural cane sugar is typically 100% vegan, as it’s minimally processed. However, white sugar goes through a not-so-vegan refining process.
To turn the unrefined cane sugar into white sugar, the larger, darker, natural sugar crystals must pass through a high-carbon filter that is full of animal bone char.
The filtration process leaves behind pure white sugar crystals, which are smaller and more concentrated than the original cane sugar.
The problem is that the bone char comes from slaughtered animals. After slaughterhouses murder their cattle and pigs for meat, the leftover bones are fire-roasted until they become brittle charcoal that’s used for food and filtration systems.
2) Corn Syrup
Most candy is made using a combination of sugar and corn syrup to create a super-thick, gooey sugar base. Unlike white sugar (which is a gray area product for vegans), corn syrup is 100% vegan-friendly.
It’s a simple sugar syrup that’s extracted from sweet corn. Unlike white sugar, it doesn’t go through any refining processes that involve bone char or other animal by-products.
3) Modified Food Starch
Modified food starch is a highly processed form of corn starch. As far as food additives go, modified food starch isn’t a particularly “healthy” ingredient. It’s pretty much just pure sugar and empty carbs, which don’t do any good for your body.
That being said, food starch is vegan-friendly, since it’s a plant-based ingredient that comes from corn (and sometimes other vegetables).
Food starch is a very common ingredient in candy. It’s mostly used as a thickening agent. When added to the sugar and corn syrup mixture, it gives the gooey mixture a thick, dough-like texture. The starch binds the ingredients together and helps everything remain homogenous.
4) Artificial Flavors
Hot Tamales are known for their strong, potent spicy cinnamon flavor. Like most candy, though, Hot Tamales aren’t made with real cinnamon. Instead, the candy is artificially flavored with cinnamon and spice flavors.
Many health-conscious eaters try to avoid artificial flavors, as they’re not the healthiest or the most natural for your body. However, the FDA claims that they’re perfectly safe to consume.
Personally, I stand somewhere in the middle. I don’t think that one should consume artificial flavors (or any artificial ingredients) excessively. However, a few artificial additives here and there probably won’t cause any lasting damage.
Another good thing about artificial colors is that they’re vegan-friendly. Since they’re made in a lab, they don’t require any animal-derived ingredients.
Dextrin is a starch-like sugar that’s extracted from plant-based sources like corn. It’s a highly processed simple sugar that’s absorbed directly into your bloodstream once it’s digested, which can cause blood sugar spikes.
While dextrin isn’t very healthy, it is a vegan-friendly additive. It’s also used in a number of vegan mass gainers since it can contribute to rapid weight gain.
6) Confectioner’s Glaze
As I discussed above, confectioner’s glaze is a problematic ingredient for vegans. Since the candy is made from exploited lac beetles, it’s not a plant-based food. For this reason, PETA recommends that vegans avoid confectioner’s glaze and all other shellac-based products.
7) Artificial Color
All Hot Tamale candies are artificially colored with red 3, red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, and blue 1. Just like artificial flavors, many health-conscious eaters try to avoid artificial colors. However, they are FDA-approved and safe for vegans.
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs, for short) are probably the only thing that’s remotely healthy about this candy. MCT oil is typically derived from coconuts. It’s basically just a stable, liquid form of coconut oil, which makes it a plant-based ingredient.
Coconut oil and MCTs are actually quite healthy when taken in small doses. They’re an excellent source of healthy unsaturated fats, which gives MCT oil a similar nutritional value to nuts (as far as the fat content goes).
You can learn more about MCT oil and its benefits here:
9) Carnauba Wax
Carnauba wax is a plant-based ingredient that’s derived from palm trees. It’s typically used to coat the outside of candy, keeping it safe from moisture and the outside air. This, in turn, also prevents the candy from sticking to each other as easily.
10) Sodium Citrate
Sodium citrate is a salt that’s derived from natural citric acid. It’s used as a flavor protectant and also serves as a preservative.
Pectin is a natural gum-like additive that’s derived from fruit and other plants. It’s 100% vegan and is commonly used in plant-based snacks.
12) Citric Acid
Citric acid serves as a natural preservative and is safe for vegans to consume. Citric acid is derived from citrus juice.
13) Malic Acid
Malic acid is a bitter-sour acid that’s used as both a preservative and a flavor additive. Similar to citric acid, malic acid is a plant-based acid that’s naturally found in fruit skins.
14) Fumaric Acid
Fumaric acid is another natural preservative that’s naturally found in the skins of bitter plants, mushrooms, and certain forms of algae. This makes it a vegan-safe food additive.
The Verdict – Are Hot Tamales Vegan-Friendly?
While most of the ingredients in Hot Tamales candy are vegan, it contains both refined sugar and confectioner’s glaze. This means that Hot Tamales are not vegan-friendly.
That being said, there are plenty of other ways to get your vegan sweet fix in…
To learn more about some of my favorite vegan treats, be sure to check out my post on the best vegan cookie dough brands next!